Using Hypertext in Networked Environments that have Internet Access

        A networked computer classroom that has access to the internet presents perhaps the most fertile ground for hypertext in the writing class: the students can use hypertext as a shared pallette upon which they can create and manipulate each other's texts, they can access the World Wide Web to critique and analyze its contents, and they can build their own (perhaps utopian) version of the web within the limited virtual space of their classroom network. But perhaps most exciting of all, they can write hypertexts which can be seen by other people, once they are placed in a directory which can be accessed from the WWW. If the aim of composition is written communication, then the presence of a "real" audience (Walter Ong notwithstanding) is a boon to the writing teacher--students who receive feedback on their work from people who do not even go to their school (indeed may not even reside in the same country as they do), tend to work harder to convey their ideas clearly and with a minimum of grammatical and mechanical error.

        In addition to (or perhaps augmenting) the possibilities for "publishing" student work on the WWW, a networked classroom with internet access can also incorporate synchronous and asynchronous communication technologies as pedagogical tools: email, newsgroups, and even MOOs can now be accessed via integrated applications in most current web browsers. These applications allow for a greater range of communication-based composition exercises--facilitating communication between and among the students as well as between classes at other institutions and between students and outside readers. I will, however, add a caveat to my enthusiasm for publishing student work on the web: the student must be comfortable with the idea of communicating with an unknown audience, and the student must have confidence in his or her text before exposing the work to that unknown audience. Writing instructors who wish to promote student publishing on the web should allow the opportunity for revision and in-house peer-review before posting student writing to the web; there must be a balance between the "safe" environment of the beginning writer and the drive to communicate that writer's thoughts and ideas to an "outside" audience.

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